Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Remembering a good friend, Darwin Sherman
By Matt Bryant, Publisher of The Southeast Iowa Union
Feb. 9, 2023 2:55 pm
My friend died.
It was an unlikely friendship. He was 30 years older than me. He had already lived and learned and moved on from the life experiences that I was going through. Many of his interests didn’t really overlap with mine. I only knew him for 14 of his 81 years. He was also my boss.
Darwin Sherman hired me to come to Washington and, at some point, take his place. The catch was, and this was left out of the interview, he didn’t really want to be replaced. He said he did. He tried to convince himself that it was time. He stayed at the Washington Journal, overseeing the newspapers in Washington, Mt. Pleasant and Fairfield for seven more years after I showed up. I could not be more thankful that he did.
Safe to say that we were only friends for 13 of the 14 years I knew him. That first year was rough. I didn’t exactly endear myself to him. I managed my own papers in northern Iowa before I showed up here. I was sure I knew everything there was to know. I had a lot of ideas about what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. When I didn’t get my way, I pouted.
Finally, Darwin had had enough and he told me in no uncertain terms, “I didn’t bring you here to fix anything. Nothing is broken.” He of course was right. My job was to not screw up all the years of blood, sweat and tears he had already poured into the place. My attitude adjusted. Not fast enough probably, but we got there.
He was tough, but always fair and maddeningly consistent. He would tell you “no” without hesitation, and then tell you why in a way that made sense and impossible to argue. He drew on his experiences and his knowledge to push, pull and drag you into being the best employee and person that he knew you could be. He would drive you crazy in all the best possible ways.
I learned so much from him. I will forever be indebted.
That, however, was not really the story of my friend. Over time our conversations became less about work and more about anything else, maybe even everything else on a particularly good day.
He couldn’t wait to tell me about his grandkids. I could almost literally see his heart swell with pride at their accomplishments and ache at the occasional misstep that all kids make.
He loved to talk about going to dinner or watching a ball game or just spending time with his kids.
He could talk for hours about his farm and his dogs and the cats that couldn’t wait to see him when he rolled into the driveway. When he got chickens, we talked about that for a month, maybe longer.
When his wife Patricia died, we really didn’t talk much at all. We just cried. Words were really hard to find. When his son Joe died a few years later, more tears.
He certainly didn’t just talk about himself. He asked about my wife and my kids and our cats and our house and our cars and our parents who he never met and then, and this is the important part, he listened to the answer. Not the polite listen and nod that we all do sometimes. He really, truly and genuinely listened. This happened every time we saw each other. Our conversations were seldom brief.
Sometimes we even talked about newspapers. After he retired at the end of 2016, I would stop by his house, or meet him for lunch, and try to pick his brain about a perplexing problem I was having at work. He would listen, as he always did, shrug his shoulders and then ask about my mom, or whatever random thing popped in his head. He knew I mostly just wanted someone to listen to me gripe, and he was infinitely more interested in my life outside of work. That is exactly what I needed in those moments, and he knew it.
Over the past year or maybe a little more, as his health declined and his ability to get himself around on his own diminished, I would go visit him. He appreciated those visits, you could see it in his eyes and his actions.
I should have gone more often. I convinced myself that I was busy. I would go tomorrow, or the next day. Now I have run out of tomorrows. I should have had one more conversation with my friend.
I am forever better because I knew him. I am forever grateful that he was a friend. He was one of the best human beings I will ever know.
I will miss him.
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